Less is more. A decluttering story.

Regularly filling donation bins has become a pastime
Regularly filling donation bins has become a pastime

We have been on a quest to create space and organisation in our challenging home for two years.

We moved into college accommodation (3 storey townhouse with little to no storage space, and a tiny backyard) two years ago this month.  Term for my husband started almost immediately. Our youngest child was due to be born in 6-7 months. There was time for unpacking what we could, find what we needed immediately, and ‘the rest’ stayed in either boxes stored in the ‘study’ (the top floor landing area), under the stairs (a cupboard filled with dread in every house we have ever lived in, with or without stairs) or stored in my inlaws’ shed. We also had a massive wooden wardrobe stored in their shed, again filled with items we decided we did not immediately need.

In a three storey house, with 5 or 6 children learning at home… one rarely visits the top floor save for getting out of bed in the morning, and going to bed at night. Certainly the Study never reached its potential.

The challenges of a large family, together all the time, in such a difficult-for-us- home took their toll on our family in many ways.

We had a few holidays away from home, thanks mainly to generous offers from friends, or the occasional splurge on a week in a holiday house while the money was still there.

Our efforts turned from organisation to decluttering. We started to look at what we had in boxes, and knew we had too much. We also started to notice that we felt so amazing in those holiday cottages, without most of our ‘things’ and enough clothes to last us only a week.

After our own efforts and ideas ran out, we turned to a professional. We hired Rebecca Mezzino from Clear Space Organising Services for a two hour consultation. It was the advice and missing pieces we needed. We had advice on how to put our house ‘on a diet’ and received some real encouragement about our efforts to date. After that meeting we started to work on the strategies we had discussed – re-evaluating what we owned, looking at ‘prime real estate’ in our home, working out what was needed to make high traffic areas more successful and also accepting that we can never achieve perfection but need our place to be functional and give us a feeling of more space.

It turns out that we found decluttering addictive. We began to really notice our productivity, mental health and organisation sky rocketing in the areas that we were working on. We took the advice we had received from Rebecca and instead of a kind of ‘new year’s resolution trip to IKEA’ to buy more storage, we put a block on any spending for organising.

There were so many immediate benefits and there were others we had not anticipated. We began to stem the flow of anything coming into the house. Around the same time we were still receiving donations of bags of clothing or toys from well meaning acquaintances and sometimes friends. We let very little into the house, and passed on what we did not immediately love or need to use. We were also daily piling up bags and bags and more bags and boxes of clothes, toys, books that we knew we wanted to live without.

I have always believed in setting children up for success. So our view on toys and tidying for example, has always involved having a system that was easy for the children to manage, reach, and when things were too difficult for them to deal with, reducing the amount immediately available – either by rotating toys when we had room to store, but in latter years by simply having less.

We weren’t able to sell things for a long time. We had too much of a problem on our hands, and a house that was driving us crazy. We needed to pass on as much as we could, as quickly as we could. This generally does not involve trying to sell things.

Rooms began to improve. The children were wholly on board, and enjoying their own efforts to own less, and create more space in their rooms.

Then we moved on to stage 2. Even more fun, even more space, and even more time on our hands to concentrate on what matters to us.

We have learned so much. This beginning is the tip of the iceberg.

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